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North Korea celebrates birth of founder without military parade

Kim Jong Un oversaw a huge public procession to celebrate the birthday of North Korea’s founding leader, state media images showed on Saturday, but the anniversary passed without an expected show of military might.

The birthday of the late Kim Il Sung – the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un – on April 15, known in the nuclear-armed country as the Day of the Sun, is one of the most important dates in Pyongyang’s political calendar.

North Korea celebrated its founder's birthday with a civil parade, synchronized dancing and fireworks North Korea celebrated its founder’s birthday with a civil parade, synchronized dancing and fireworks Photo: KCNA VIA KNS VIA AFP/STR

Analysts and South Korean and US officials had widely predicted a military parade or even a nuclear test, but Friday’s celebrations included a civilian parade, synchronized dancing and fireworks.

Photos released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency showed thousands of colorfully dressed people marching through the capital’s Kim Il Sung Square while Kim Jong Un looked on from a balcony.

Photos released by North Korea's state-run news agency showed thousands of colorfully dressed people marching through Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square Photos released by North Korea’s state-run news agency showed thousands of colorfully dressed people marching through Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square Photo: KCNA VIA KNS VIA AFP/STR

“Columns of workers, peasant dancers and others marched past the square,” KCNA said, carrying banners and plaques with socialist slogans and a giant national flag.

Three generations of the Kim family have ruled the country since 1948.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waved to protesters from a balcony North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waved to protesters from a balcony Photo: KCNA VIA KNS VIA AFP/STR

Kim also visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the bodies of Kim Il Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong Il lie.

North Korea celebrated the birthday of its founding leader on April 15 North Korea celebrated the birthday of its founding leader on April 15 Photo: AFP / KIM Won Jin

Leading up to the day, there was a steady drumbeat of celebratory coverage in state media, including the opening of new residential complexes, light festivals and floral tributes.

Highlighting new homes and citizens with smartphones photographing flowers was a calculated decision, said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“The Kim regime needs more sources of national pride and legitimacy than military parades,” he said.

“So the public commemorations surrounding the founder’s birthday attempted to portray an economy that’s not just resilient, it’s growing.”

The anniversary celebrations came three weeks after North Korea’s largest-ever ICBM test — the first time since 2017 that Kim’s most powerful weapon was fired at full range.

That test was the culmination of a record-breaking spate of sanctions-busting launches this year and signaled the end of a self-imposed moratorium on long-range and nuclear tests.

Satellite images have shown signs of new activity in a tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which North Korea said was demolished in 2018 ahead of a summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump.

South Korean officials said Pyongyang could still hold a military parade or conduct a weapons test on or around April 25, the anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army.

https://www.ibtimes.com/north-korea-marks-founders-birth-without-military-parade-3476057?utm_source=Public&utm_medium=Feed&utm_campaign=Distribution North Korea celebrates birth of founder without military parade

Brian Ashcraft

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